Interview with a real Canadian

i conducted this interview with a real canadian via email, hope you enjoy.

Q) ever seen bowling for columbine?
A) Yes, I saw "Bowling For Columbine", but I think I need a late pass because I first watched it a month ago. I was surprised by how popular it was among young Canadians. Overall it was a great movie, maybe a bit long, but Moore raised many good points. He provoked thought and encouraged action, which is most you can hope for in a political documentary.
For the record, I’d like to say that there are virtually no Canadians who leave their doors unlocked. I didn’t like the scene where Moore was implying that because Canadians are more trusting and less violent than Americans, we leave our doors open. That just doesn’t happen.

Q) what are the gun laws like in canada?
A) Gun laws are a lot tougher in Canada, so it’s harder for people to have access to firearms. In Canada there’s approximately one gun for every 4 individuals, whereas I’ve heard that there are almost as many guns as people in the United States. We’ve reformed the gun registration laws recently, making access even harder, and there’s been a bit of protest.
If you want to know why America has a much higher crime rate than Canada, the gun laws would probably be a good starting point.

Q) it's sometimes said that america has created only a few art forms of its own (the musical, the blues, jazz, and hip-hop among them). is there any art form that is uniquely canadian or purely canadian in its origin?
A) I don’t think that any mainstream art forms are uniquely Canadian. The only thing that comes to mind are the Inuit and their art, but they’re not well known in Canada, much less around the world.
However, Canadians did invent hockey and basketball, which are important contributions to sports and entertainment.

Q) assuming you work within the system, how effacicous do you think your efforts can be in canada? that is, to what degree do you feel a person can affect change within the system?
A) You can accomplish a lot by working within the system in Canada. For example, in the past decade, three major federal political parties (Bloc Quebecois, Canadian Alliance, Conservative Party of Canada) have been created and two major federal parties (Reform Party, Progressive Conservative) have dissolved. I can’t think of another first-world country where you see such a high rate of change among the political parties.
In the past few years, as I’ve mentioned earlier, there have been major changes within Canada, such as the decriminalization of marijuana, the legalization of homosexual marriage and Canada staying out of the war in Iraq. These initiatives may not have been spearheaded by any one individual, but they show that Canada is more receptive to change than most other countries.

Q) in america there are regional rivalries like west coast versus east coast or north versus south. is there an equivalent in canada?
A) I don’t know if this counts as a rivalry, but everyone picks on Newfoundlanders (who we affectionately refer to as "Newfies"). Stereotypically, they’re a bunch of dumb fishers living in hick towns. You can’t grow up in Canada without hearing or telling Newfie jokes. Actually, one of my acquaintances from high school is going to university in Newfieland, and he laughs at himself more than we mock him.
A more serious rivalry would be that between Quebec and the rest of the nation. Virtually all French Canadians live in Quebec and it was only a matter of time before the historic tensions reached a breaking point. Over the past 50 years they’ve demanded more political power and preferential treatment. Some have gone as far as demanding complete separation from Canada. Quebeckers still have more rights than any other Canadians (including the Inuits); they’ve even restricted the rights of non-French speakers (Bill 101, which violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but continues to exist due to a controversial loophole). Actually, they had a provincial referendum on 30 October 1995 and those who were against separatism just barely edged out those in favour of separatism (50.56% to 49.44%). At least there were no recounts! After that, the separatist movement lost a lot of power, but it remains an important element of Canadian politics.
Obviously there are some more rivalries and tensions, such as the Inuit wanting more political power, or the Western provinces struggling to compete with the more socially liberal and economically successful province of Ontario.
And let’s not forget Leafs vs. Canadiens. Enough said.

Q) how many major political parties are there in canada?
A) That’s an interesting question. First I’ll talk about the major parties, then give a bit of history about them. It’s not an easy question to answer.
The Liberals are the largest political party in Canada and have been in power for the last 11 years. They’ve won the past three elections decisively. They’re a centrist party but have become more liberal in the past few years; they’ve helped legalize homosexual marriages, decriminalize marijuana, and they chose not to participate in the war in Iraq.
As their name suggests, the Progressive Conservatives were Canada’s main right-wing party before dissolving last year (more on that later). They opposed homosexual rights and generally catered to big business. Similarly, the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) was another right-wing party. However, the two groups correctly realized that they were splitting the vote between conservative voters and chose to merge last year. They’re now known as the Conservative Party of Canada and hope to provide real opposition to the Liberals in the next election.
The New Democratic Party is Canada’s true left-wing party. They are somewhat socialistic and don’t care much for big business. However, they control at most 10% of the votes.
The Bloc Quebecois is a party that advocates the separation of Quebec from Canada. They run only in Quebec and therefore have no chance of coming to power, but they show that the separatists I spoke of in the previous question still have some political muscle. One of the nice things about Canada is that the government allows a party that is designed exclusively for dissolving the nation to exist. Something tells me America wouldn’t allow such a party to exist.
Back to the question at hand. A year ago, you could argue that there was only one major party (the Liberals, because they keep on winning decisively). Or you could say that there were five parties, each having at least 10% of the vote and getting federal funding.
As of today, there are four major parties (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois), though only the Liberals and Conservatives have a chance of winning the next election. Hope that wasn’t too confusing.

Q) how does the electoral system work regarding the legislature - is it a winner takes all system or a proportional representation system?
A) Canada is divided into 301 ridings. The winning candidate in each riding gets a seat in the House of Commons, and the political party with the most seats gets to select the Prime Minister.
Note that this may cause a problem: you only vote for your regional representative, not the Prime Minister. It’s possible (and actually fairly common) that you’d want, say, a regional NDP representative, but a Liberal Prime Minister. Also, it’s possible for a PM to come to power while losing the popular vote.

Q) we've dealt with our poverty problems by mostly ignoring and blaming the poor. it seems that most canadians disagree with this approach, yet we're richer - how does that make you feel?
A) That depends on what you mean by "richer". No doubt America has a stronger economy and your middle- and upper-class is richer than ours. However, with our social safety net, the poor in Canada are much better off than the poor in America. I guess our philosophy is to look after the poor first, whereas your system favours the rich. I think we’re both successful at living by our own philosophies. Which philosophy is better remains open to debate.

Q) who would win in a wrestling match george w. bush or paul martin?
A) Here’s my mom’s answer: "George Bush. Because he’d play dirty."

Q) do you guys have hamburgers up there?
A) No, if we want meat, we have to get out of our igloos and hunt polar bears. Those things bite.

Q) you guys have lots of communists up there, right? if so, what's it like being surrounded by so many godless commies?
A) Yep, lots of communists and atheists up here. Next thing you know, there might actually be some freethinkers.